Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Tests, More Photos

I had so many issues when I tried to shoot with wet plate collodion that I decided to work-out any equipment issues with Harman Positive Paper.  It's hard to tell whether the problems I was having were because of the complicated collodion process or if they had something to do with the equipment.

With the Harman paper  I have a professionally produced product that I know works well. I tested the paper in another post below and it worked well with my 8x10 Deardorff with the 5x7 back and a Schneider-Kreuznach 210mm f/5.6 lens.

I also wanted a chance to go through my older shutter-less lenses to decide which ones to keep, AND I wanted to shoot with my newly acquired Vageeswari 11x14 camera and the newly mounted Wollensak Vitax Portrait lens. I ordered some 8x10 and 11x14 Harman Direct Positive paper and proceeded to have some fun.

I setup a studio in my garage with flash and backdrop. I used two massive 4000Ws and one 2000Ws Norman flash units. Remember this paper is ISO 3 - very slow.

I ran into some issues that took me some time to troubleshoot. Thankfully I had a bunch of family members come over to sit patiently and pose for me.

The biggest issue I had was excessive lens flare from the various uncoated vintage lenses I was using. I couldn't tell with the modeling lights, but the powerful flashes were blowing away the lenses and scattering light inside them to the point of creating nothing but ghost images with no contrast. More specifically it was the backlight causing all the chaos. Once I flagged the backlight it was ON.

Hatuey with crazy lens flare on Carl Meyer non-coated lens
It wasn't obvious at first. I started shooting with an old Carl Meyer 12" (305mm) f/4.5 lens. The photos came out all washed up with no contrast mostly light gray and white. I thought it might be due to light leaks in the film holders or with the Packard shutter. I decided to use the lens I shot the "les Mis" photos, which had given great results. It worked. I was able to make nice contrasty images with the newer coated Schneider-Kreuznach 210mm f/5.6 lens.
Carl Meyer 305mm f/4.5 on 8x10 Deardorff

I switched back to the Carl Meyer lens. I took a photo of my son and WHAM - no contrast, gray ghostly image. See above photo. Everything else was constant, the film holder the camera, it couldn't be light leaks. It had to be the lens. I thought about it and it hit me.

Coated lenses, like the 210mm Schneider, don't have as bad a flare problem as non-coated lenses. I turned off the backlight and BINGO, wonderful photo with great contrast and deep blacks on the Carl Meyer. See photo below.

Hatuey, Carl Meyer lens, No back light, no flare
I also learned that the developer doesn't last long when your shooting 11x14. I used Clayton P20 paper developer. I diluted around 13 to 1. Signs of weak developer are gray blacks and no contrast. Once the photos start to take longer than 3.5 minutes to get deep blacks, it's time to remix some developer. Remember, this is all new to me, I'm discovering most of these issues on my own.

Here are more photos from the two day photo shoot:

Nicole, shot with the Schneider 210mm lens and full backlight
Nicole helped me out, and learned alongside me. She developed a few of the photos in the two days we shot these. She is also quite photogenic. 

Greg shot with the Schneider 210mm lens

Cedric, weak developer, low contrast
Andy, Rose and Dhaisha shot with a missile tracking lens - I'm going to play with this Goerz lens a little more.
The Goerz lens I used for the above photo was designed for a missile tracking system. I had not figured out the flare issue when I shot this photo, so I didn't use it for any other photos that day. I'll have to shoot more photos with this one to see if it works as a portrait lens. Looks like it's a bit on the "low contrast" end of the spectrum, although it might also be the flare issue.

Andres and Nicole

Granddaughter and daughter

Shot with the 11x14 Vageeswari and the 6 lb. Vitax lens